Photo/IllutrationRugby ball-shaped trichuris suis eggs (Provided by Detlev Goj)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Patients will ingest parasitic worm eggs as a treatment for immune system-related problems in a clinical trial at Jikei University.

A team of experts at the university announced that it will use the method to help patients’ conditions stemming from overactive immune systems.

The idiosyncratic treatment is aimed at treating various ailments, including psoriasis and ulcerative colitis.

“In the long history of mankind, coexistence with nature, including parasites, is normal,” said Hirotaka Kanuka, professor of parasitology at the university.

“Japanese are familiar with parasitic worms, such as anisakis and tapeworms. If we can prove the effectiveness, I believe this treatment method will be accepted (by Japanese people). I am hoping this will provide alternative options for treating intestinal conditions that tend to become chronic diseases.”

The team will confirm that the hatched worms do not cause severe health problems in humans before embarking on the clinical trial.

In the experiment, healthy male subjects will be given eggs of the trichuris suis, a type of string-shaped parasite that usually inhabits the intestines of pigs and boars. They can cause diarrhea in those animals.

The worms hatched from the eggs will infect the intestine of the subject and will be excreted through feces after two weeks or so, the researchers said.

Similar clinical research in Western nations has found that subjects who ingested eggs of the worm experienced soft feces, but no severe side effects have been reported.

It is believed that there are two types of immune systems, one that reacts to bacteria and viruses, and the other works on parasites and pollen. It is believed that when one type is active, the other function becomes inactive to maintain the balance of the systems.

Based on the idea that the immune systems that work on bacteria are overreacting in psoriasis and colitis patients, this treatment aims to suppress symptoms of such diseases by deliberately infecting them with parasitic worms.